31 Reasons You're Not Losing Weight on Low Carb (The Ultimate Guide)

Questions: What, Where, When, Why, How

This is our Ultimate Low-Carb Guide to stalls and weight-loss plateaus.

If you're not losing weight on Atkins, Keto, or any other low-carb program, the following 31 myths, mistakes, and false expectations may be getting in the way.

Here's how to get your weight-loss dreams back on track today. 

Not losing weight on Atkins or Keto?

You are definitely not alone. Losing weight is one of the most difficult things I've ever done, and it came with lots of pitfalls along the way. Regardless of what people say about eating low carb, ditching body fat isn't as simple as eating less and moving more.

I have been involved in the low-carb movement from it's early beginnings. Over the years, I've collected an extensive list of reasons why low carb might stop working.

Today, I'm going to share that list with you, so you can evaluate where you are, and learn what you need to do to get those scales moving.

Whether you're just starting out, have been dieting for awhile, or you're investigating the pros and cons of ketogenic living, you'll get everything you need to know about weight-loss stalls and plateaus in this handy, in-depth mega guide.

There are numerous ways the mind and body can adapt the energy you use to match the amount of energy coming in, so this ultimate guide for stalls and weight-loss plateaus doesn't just reveal the 31 reasons why you're not losing weight on low carb.

It also tells you what to do about it.

Whether you are new to a low-carb diet and confused as to why the pounds aren't coming off as fast as you thought they would, or you have just completed Atkins Induction but the number on the scale doesn't want to budge anymore, the following list of myths and mistakes can help clear up the confusion and give you the knowledge you need to get your dreams back on track.

Pinterest Image: Fat-Head Pizza (low carb)

1. You are Losing Weight on Atkins or Keto, But Not Fast Enough

I'm going to start with the obvious because often, it's the most difficult to see.

This problem is complex because its nature isn't physical. Not being able to see progress has a lot to do with your attitude, how you see yourself, and what you have imagined a low-carb diet will do for you.

In this blinded condition, you see yourself as not losing weight on low carb, even though you are.
Wise Old Man Wearing a Blindfold
The most obvious reason you are not losing
weight is the most difficult to see.

Setting up diet expectations or ideals can really drive you crazy, especially if you expect to lose weight faster than other weight-loss programs.

There's nothing magical about ketogenic diets. They work exactly like any other weight-loss plan. A lack of energy coming in, forces the body to draw upon its stored energy resources.

So, what makes low carb different?

Low carb sets up conditions that force the body to use a greater portion of fatty acids for its energy needs, instead of glucose.

The benefit of switching to the alternative metabolic pathway is reduced hunger and cravings.

This makes eating at a deficit more comfortable, satisfying, and many people can do it naturally without having to pay attention to what they eat or drink.

Low carb also helps reverse specific health conditions, such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, and elevated cholesterol.

But the largest benefit of doing low carb is not faster weight loss.

It's sustainability.

You may, or may not, burn body fat easier than on a standard low-calorie diet. That depends on your hormonal state, whether you're insulin resistant or insulin sensitive, and how much dietary fat you're eating.

You only have partial control over the speed of fat loss.

Since there is a maximum amount of body fat that can be mobilized, broken down, and used within a 24 hour period, expectation can't triumph reality.

It's best to be content with what's going on and experiment with small changes that might offer additional benefits. I had to tweak the Atkins Diet to be more like Keto to get it to work faster by lowering the amount of fat I was eating, as Dr. Phinney suggests, which greatly reduced my calories.

2. You Don't Believe in Counting Calories

I'm coming out of the batting cage swinging hard with this one. Not believing in the energy equation is the number one reason why most low-carb dieters do not reach target weight.

The mantra heard throughout most low-carb forums is that a calorie is not a calorie. Clinging to this false belief will paralyze you to act in your own best interest.

Don't hang your wish to be thin on a belief that is not based on fact. Believing in the energy equation doesn't mean you are turning your back on a low-carb approach.

Instead, find the strength to look at what you're actually eating and drinking on a daily basis.

Are you eating too many calorie-dense foods?

While a huge caloric deficit isn't to your advantage, you must consume less energy than your body needs to get through the day. If you don't, your body won't need to dip into your fat stores to provide those extra daily calories.

All diets work by upsetting the energy equation.

3. Scale Stress

Do you weigh yourself everyday? Does that number affect the way you feel about yourself and set up your mood for the entire day?

If so, you might be a victim of scale stress.

White Bathroom Scale with Feet
Watching the bathroom scale
only produces lots of anxiety!
Anxiety is a signal from the body that you are making something too important.

Traditionally, anxiety follows a “fight or flight” response.

While this upswing in stress hormones was essential for your ancestors to avoid physical danger, the scale is not a physical threat to your life.

The body listens to your feelings of doom and prepares you with quick energy (it breaks down glycogen into glucose) to handle the threat, even if you only got your feelings hurt.

Stressing out about how quick the pounds are not coming off raises cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress factors. When cortisol comes into play, all fatty-acids in your bloodstream are immediately stored, becoming unavailable to the muscles.

The liver breaks down its glycogen stores into glucose, and dumps that glucose into the bloodstream. Within only a few minutes, you go from a fat-burning machine back to burning glucose.

As a result, your hunger and cravings go up, fat mobilization stops, and so does your weight loss.

Stop looking at the scale as the enemy. It only shares how much:
  • water you have stored in blood and tissues
  • undigested food is hanging around
  • muscle mass you have
  • your body organs weigh
  • excess fat you have stored
Scale weight is not just body fat, so the number isn't reliable.

Chart Showing Downward Trend of Weight Loss

It's the downward trend that matters, and a downward trend takes several weeks to manifest. If you live in anxiety city, it's going to be difficult to mobilize body fat without greatly reducing your calories.

4. You are Not Really Stalled

I get a surprising number of emails from people struggling to understand how a low-carb diet works.

One to two weeks is not a stall or weight-loss plateau.

If you are not losing weight on Atkins or Keto, you need to understand that water fluctuations are extremely common when you restrict carbs. The scale can vary by as much as 5 pounds in a single day.

This is not body fat, so it's nothing to worry about.

Weight-loss pauses are also common.

Plus, your body won't use body fat evenly. The body will only pull fat out of your fat stores if it is needed for energy. You won't lose weight every day, every week, or even every month. There is no set pattern for weight loss.

I've seen people on PSMF diets (protein-sparing modified fast) go through an entire 6-week diet round without dropping a single pound. Not one! However, their body composition was dramatically altered during that time period.

The scale won't tell you the truth of what's going on.

If you're burning visceral fat (the fat stored in your muscles, liver, and abnormal muscles), you might not see progress on the scale. It is always better to use a tape measure or favorite piece of clothing to measure your success instead.

The common definition for a stall or weight-loss plateau is 4 to 6 weeks without having lost any pounds or inches.

If you think that is too long to wait, then you need to re-evaluate why you decided to go low carb. If you are looking for a crash diet, rather than a lifestyle, you need to pick a different plan.

5. You're Experiencing Water Retention

Pouring Bottled Water into a Glass
Water retention is not always because you're
not drinking enough water.

The number one reason for rocky weight loss is water retention.

This is an odd phenomenon that may correct itself if you drink more water, but not always. It depends on why you're experiencing water retention. Perhaps, it's:
These can all result in water retention, masking your fat loss on the scale.

In addition to the list above, the body defends its fat stores by stuffing an abnormal amount of water into the fat cells as they empty out. This is common right after Atkins Induction, and can take 6 to 8 weeks to correct itself.

But, it can also occur at any time during your weight loss journey.

All it takes is sensory information coming in. You see food, smell food, hear it being prepared, and your body tells your mind that food is available, so your weight loss pauses.

Even after several months, you can continue to go through periods where the body hangs onto water weight and then dumps it almost overnight. This isn't just happening to newbies.

If you find yourself in this situation, there isn't a lot you can do about it. First address the causes for water retention listed above. If you aren't drinking enough water, if you're not eating enough protein or have unbalanced electrolytes, seek out ways to correct those problems.

If these course corrections don't get the scales moving, you'll need to be patient. When I accidentally ate 2 slices of sourdough bread at Cracker Barrel, thinking the bread was low carb, my weight loss stalled for over six weeks.

There is no way to force the body to do what you want it to do. If it believes there are carbs around, it will patiently wait for you to eat them. It won't let go of the water until it knows you aren't going to do that.

6. Not Drinking Enough Water

Low carb is dehydrating. That's just the way it is. You have to replace the water you're losing during fat mobilization and glycogen use. If you don't drink enough water, fat can't be mobilized as quickly, so the body will adapt to what you're eating in other ways.

The body is 60 percent water. A large portion of that is found in the bloodstream, but water is also used to shape and bathe your cells.

Dr. Atkins recommended you drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day. Most low carbers believe 64 ounces isn't enough.

In 2007, the recommendation was to drink 64 ounces plus an extra 8 ounces for every 25 pounds you were overweight. Others believed you needed to drink half of your current weight in ounces every day.

These formulas were more water than my body could deal with, since I have vertigo. For me, the optimal amount was 3 quarts.

Take the steps to discover the optimal amount of water for you.

7. You are Near Goal or Already at a Healthy Weight

Young, Normal-Weight Woman Picking Up a Chick
Atkins won't help you shed stubborn fat pockets.
Neither will it always get rid of a flabby belly.

If you're trying to use the Atkins Diet to shed stubborn fat pockets or a flabby belly, you are going to be disappointed with the results. Atkins doesn't work that way.

It was designed to correct metabolic issues that prevent success with a typical low-calorie diet. While you don't have to be insulin resistant for the diet to work, if you are close to goal weight, calories are King.

It takes a 500-calorie deficit per day to lose about a pound of body fat per week. However, when close to goal or already at an acceptable weight, your body will fight to protect it's fat stores.

You can't just drop 500 calories and see results because you won't have enough Leptin to dull the hunger and your metabolism will tank as soon as you try. You have to make sure you're covering your protein needs 100 percent, and you have to make sure you're obsessively measuring your food.

What you want will take time.

This type of body manipulation is completely out of my expertise, so if shedding fat pockets is what you want to do, please go to the Body Recomposition website. It is the best resource I know of to get the type of help you need.

Low carb is great for binge eating problems or if you need help controlling your appetite, but there is no low-carb magic. Lyle McDonald's site is a better fit for you.

8. You Have a History of Dieting

If you've tried multiple diet schemes in the past, your lower mind (instinct for survival) will know your pattern of behavior. While it doesn't understand what a weight-loss diet is, it does understand famine and calorie restriction.

Once the body has gone through a famine situation, whether that is a:
  • real famine
  • starvation response due to malnutrition
  • or restrictive diet
It will already have an emergency program on file that it can pull out and use immediately. The path of adaption the body traveled before is the same path it can follow today, so adaption happens quicker.

If your past diet was a low-carb plan, your body won't have to guess at how many ketones to make to fuel the brain or how many fatty acids you need to keep muscles fed. It will already know, so you won't waste as much energy.

Energy conservation results in slower weight loss and quicker equilibrium, if you have ever made it that far before.

Equilibrium is the number one goal of the body once you deprive it of carbs and calories. It will strive to create energy balance, so you don't want to use too large of a deficit or you won't have anywhere to go once your body succeeds at equilibrium.

Patience is definitely needed if this isn't your first rodeo. Your lower mind is smart. There is no way to control what it chooses to do.

9. You are Sensitive to the Sugars in Vegetables

This problem was common in 2007.

By that time, the Atkins name had been sold to the Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. company, and they had tweaked the 2002 version of the Atkins Diet to be higher in vegetables.

This was a unique problem I had never run into before. Instead of being sensitive to a particular vegetable or vegetable family, such as Nightshades, people were not losing weight on Atkins due to eating too many vegetables.

It had nothing to do with going over on carbs. For some reason, it was the vegetables themselves.

I didn't understand what drove the problem until I started testing my blood glucose levels at home. Home-grown zucchini squash, a vegetable found on the Atkins acceptable list in 2002, drove my blood sugar through the roof, while store-purchased tomatoes did not.

Saute Zucchini, Onions, and Tomatoes
Some people are sensitive to the sugar in certain vegetables.
Eating zucchini caused my blood glucose level
to soar up into diabetic territory!

At one point, I tried cutting carbohydrates to zero to avoid the vegetables, so I could return them to my diet one by one, but the lack of carbs stressed the body out even more. Eventually, I had to just eat whatever the body could tolerate.

I did fine on 35 to 60 carbs, provided I didn't eat too many vegetables. Odd, I know, but that's how my body reacted to them. And so did many others. The key is to figure out how your body reacts to the foods you're giving it.

10. You Have Unconscious Eating Habits

One major attraction of the Atkins Diet is not counting calories. Instead, you watch your intake of carbohydrates, a lower number to remember.

Instead of weighing out your meats and dragging out the measuring spoons for butter and mayo, you just measure your salad greens and veggies.

While that might work on paper, it doesn't always work in real life, especially if you have unconscious eating habits you brought with you. Dr. Atkins recommended you eat until satisfied, but if you're used to:
  • crunching on chips when watching television
  • snacking on popcorn while surfing the web
  • continually tasting food while you cook
you can eat more calories, or even carbohydrates, than you think. Sure, the chips and popcorn are gone now, but what are you eating instead?
  • deviled eggs
  • homemade cheese sticks
  • beef jerky or fatty salami sticks
  • boiled ham heaped with cream cheese
  • pork rinds as scoops for homemade dip
  • mixed nuts or flavored almonds
  • fat bombs and buttered coffee
All these foods pack a hefty calorie punch.

When you mindlessly toss something into your mouth while doing something else, your brain doesn't understand that you have eaten anything because you aren't paying attention to the food. And since you might not track calories or realize how few you can eat to provide the deficit you need, mindless habits can derail your weight loss pretty quick.

Pay attention to everything you eat. Write down anything you put into your mouth and actually LOOK at what you wrote. Many people overeat because they don't realize how much eating they do in between meals or while cooking.

11. You're Eating Too Many Snacks

Snacking has gotten a bad rub over the years.

Many believe that insulin levels must be low to mobilize and use body fat for fuel. However, if you're insulin resistant, the body doesn't recognize those high insulin levels, so it reacts as if your insulin is low.

Others believe that the fewer snacks you eat, the fewer insulin surges your body will have to deal with, so you'll mobilize more fat in between meals. Again, the body will do strange things on low carb if you are insulin sensitive, rather than insulin resistant.

Insulin is an essential hormone that actually has a hunger-quieting effect on the body.

This is due to the role insulin plays in energy metabolism. While Dr. Atkins recommended that you never go 6 hours without eating at least a low-carb snack, there is no relationship between weight loss and the number of meals you eat.

What matters is the amount of calories consumed within a 24 hour period, so eating too many snacks can interfere with weight loss, especially if you're not tracking what you eat.

Snacking for satisfaction can do more harm than good, depending on how many pounds you need to lose. The heavier you are, the more room you have for snacking because your body's energy needs will be higher.

As weight goes down, nutritional needs go down too. What I could eat at 256 pounds wasn't what I could eat at 145.

Many people find cutting out snacks is a painless way to trim calories, but that may, or may not be true for you. Most of the low-carb trends that have surfaced over the past few years are ways to trick yourself into eating less.

12. You Have an Insatiable Desire to Exercise

Exercise is not negotiable on Atkins. You need to be actively engaged each and every day.

What you don't have to do is jump head-first into a severe exercise program. Low carb and intense exercise do not mix very well.

Strenuous exercise combined with fewer calories and carbs puts a huge burden of stress on the body. Stress always brings an increase in cortisol and insulin production, which clears the bloodstream of fats and other nutrients and dumps glucose into the blood for quick energy.

Man exercising in a gym
Exercise can slow down
weight loss
There's a valid reason why bodybuilders live on egg whites and low-fat protein.

To build muscle, you need insulin spikes and if you're eating lots of fat, that fat will go straight to your belly due to excess cortisol.

Even moderate exercise can have adverse effects on the scale. Since water and protein is needed to repair muscle tears, water retention is common after a strenuous workout. Weight will go up, due to the extra substances needed for repairs, but it's not body fat.

Over time, the water weight will come back down, provided you are not overdoing it.

If exercise is your problem, you only have two options:

1) Cut down on the number of workouts and lessen the intensity of the workouts; or

2) Switch to a high-protein, low-fat diet

Keep in mind that exercise doesn't help you lose weight faster, but it does help you maintain what you've lost and increases insulin sensitivity.

13. Candida and Small Bowel Overgrowth

Candida is a yeast normally found in the body, but during times of stress, unusual trauma, or a round of antibiotics, this fungus can spread into places where it doesn't belong.

A high-sugar diet, birth control pills, steroids like Prednisone, and any condition that affects the immune system can cause yeast overgrowth.

The same goes for other types of yeast that normally populate the colon. These yeasts can migrate from the colon and spread into your upper small intestines, interfering with digestion and nutrient absorption.

Signs of Candida infection or small bowel overgrowth are quite extensive, but a few of the symptoms include:
  • gas and bloating
  • heartburn
  • intestinal cramping
  • frequent headaches
  • chest congestion
  • craving for sweets and starchy carbs
  • hives or other skin rashes
  • water retention (feel puffy)
  • react to scented products or perfumes
  • feel worse when it rains or snows
  • feeling tired, even after a full night's sleep
If you have a yeast issue, Dr. Atkins said you're likely to experience a metabolic slowdown that's dramatic enough to prevent fat loss.

But what you eat also greatly matters.

While the average low-carb approach to nutrition eliminates yeast's largest food source – sugar – yeast and mold-containing low-carb foods can also be problematic for those prone to yeast infections:
  • cheese
  • vinegar
  • soy sauce
  • fermented condiments
  • mushrooms
  • sauerkraut
  • sour cream
  • peanuts and peanut butter
  • cashews
  • pistachios
  • smoked or cured foods
  • yeast-containing vitamins
  • wine, beer, and other spirits
Yeast and mold are co-reactors. According to Dr. Atkins, if you react to one, then you will react to the other.

Environmental conditions that harbor mold may also be an issue for you. Damp basements, bathrooms with no ventilation, or buildings with Sick Building Syndrome are a few conditions that Dr. Atkins mentioned in 2002.

If you have environmental allergies or seasonal sensitivities, your body will already be stressed. Extra allergens can make you more susceptible to yeast sensitivity. But keep in mind that yeast overgrowth stresses your entire immune system, which can affect your total health.

All of these issues can use up the energy resources that would otherwise go into breaking down body fat, so Dr. Atkins recommends you eliminate from your low-carb program all the foods in the above list.

If after 4 to 6 weeks you're still experiencing symptoms and not seeing any drop in weight, the problem might be more than yeast and high levels of cortisol. In that case, you need to visit your doctor for a complete checkup.

14. You Have a Thyroid Problem

It's easy to blame the thyroid gland when the pounds don't come off as quickly as you hoped, but your metabolic rate does play a role in the speed at which body fat can be broken down and used as fuel. It is the thyroid that regulates your metabolism's speed.

If thyroid hormone is low, you'll suffer the effects of hypothyroidism. If your body is making too much thyroid hormone, you'll suffer the effects of hyperthyroidism.

The number one cause for both conditions is autoimmune thyroid disease, and both conditions cause weight gain.

Both also affect how well a low-carb diet works.

When restricting carbs long term, the body becomes less efficient in converting T4 into T3. This results in low free T3 levels.

The situation is only temporary, though.

Once carbohydrate levels go up, as you move through the four phases of the Atkins Nutritional Approach, thyroid conversion slowly returns to normal, so there is nothing actually wrong with the thyroid.

Reduction of T3 is simply an adaption the body makes to carbohydrate restriction as it moves toward regaining energy balance.

This failure to convert T4 into T3 can affect weight loss, however.

Dr. Atkins told people in the old Atkins newsgroup I belonged to that he used to give his patients temporary thyroid hormones to get them to goal weight, but most doctors won't pay attention to anything other than your TSH. If TSH falls within their lab's ranges, they will tell you that your thyroid isn't the problem.

If you suspect it is, seek out someone who specializes in the thyroid. While it might cost a little more, it will save you lots of hassles and money over the long haul.

15. You're Not Eating Enough Protein

Despite the chorus on the web that sings the low-protein praises, your body needs plenty of amino acids to keep up with body repair, plus a little extra for oxidation or glycogen. Keeping your glycogen stores at least partially refilled is the best way to ensure a stable blood sugar.

Go too low in protein, and you'll trigger starvation, causing cortisol to go up and less fatty acids to be burned for fuel.

Stir-Fried Pork Cubes, Peppers, and Onions
Dr. Phinney calls ketone levels
above 3.0 ketone starvation.
The body will still get those amino acids, though. You're not really depriving it of the staff of life. If you don't eat enough protein foods, the body will take it from muscle tissue, endangering not only your health, but also your life. Your weight will go down, but it won't be because you're burning fat.

Most sources recommend you eat 0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.

This is only slightly more than the 0.6 grams you need for protein structure repair and slightly less than the 1 gram per pound of lean body mass that was being recommended in 2007.

If you do strength training, you need up to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass.

The more carbs you eat, the lower in protein you can go, but that works in reverse, as well. The fewer carbs you eat, the more protein you need to keep blood sugar level steady, so go by how you feel and whether your blood glucose is well controlled eating how you are.

16. You Don't Understand How Atkins Works

Atkins has evolved over the years and branched into different low-carb programs. This can be confusing if you're trying to piece the Atkins Diet together from the information on the web, instead of reading the book.

Contradictory information is rampant, with moderate-carb diets or low-glycemic plans sometimes calling themselves low carb, so you have to make sure that you understand how to do the Atkins Diet correctly.

Trying to guess which foods are low in carbs won't always work, especially if you're moving from a low-fat diet. While Atkins isn't the only way to go, whatever low-carb plan you choose, the same principle applies:


If you're snacking on apples, adding a banana to your morning protein shake, or eating low-carb tortillas on Atkins Induction, you can't expect the same weight-loss results as those who are following the program, as written.

If you're doing Atkins 40, you have fewer food restrictions, but how you spend your carbs is more controlled than it is on Atkins 20 or Atkins 2002. People doing the Keto Diet at Reddit have more freedom than Atkins people do, but you also count calories to make sure you're eating at a deficit.

If you're using Nutritional Ketosis, read Dr. Phinney's work. Watch his videos. Understand the proper role of fat and protein in the diet. There are more misconceptions about LCHF than any other low-carb program.

Whatever plan you're doing, don't try to mix-and-match until you're further down the road and positive that you don't fit the average profile. Trying to combine Atkins and Nutritional Ketosis will only hamper your results.

It's only when you're 100 percent positive that your plan doesn't work that you should you begin tweaking. Give your body several weeks to adjust to the new eating style first.

17. You're Eating When You're Not Hungry

This is similar to eating mindlessly, but eating when not hungry is more complex. Scheduled meal times, eating to feel included, or eating when stressed or bored can add to your calorie burden. So will eating for comfort or because the food smells too good to pass up.

The Atkins rule of never going more than 6 hours without eating might work for someone who weighs 250 pounds, but as you move toward ideal weight, forced eating will work against you.

You want the Leptin-Hypothalamus system to work correctly, so eating when you're not hungry doesn't make sense.

The Atkins Diet is not an eat-all-you-want diet. Although, many people have described it that way, you need to be practical and realistic. Eating when you are not hungry is most likely one of the things that got you into this mess, so if you're not losing weight on Atkins, stop eating when you're not hungry.

18. You're Eating Too Many Carbs

If counting carbs feels like a nuisance and you believe a ball-park figure is good enough, you might be eating more carbohydrate than you think. This is common in those who have been low carbing for awhile, but it also occurs when you try to recreate your old, high-carb diet.

In the beginning, when motivation is high, counting each and every carb is fun and exciting. As the diet progresses and you gain confidence, you might not be as strict as you were before.

Instead of measuring the heavy cream you put into your coffee, you might have started pouring it into the cup right out of the carton, assuming that you know exactly how much you're getting.
  • Are you actually weighing out all of those nuts and cheese snacks?
  • Keeping to the Atkins restriction of half an avocado a day?
  • And what about sugar substitutes? Many come with carby fillers.
If you haven't been counting your carbs lately, go back to counting and try to discover where those carbs are creeping in. Watch for too many recipes made with cream, cheese, pork rinds, and other high-calorie foods.

Bulk sweeteners pack a whopping 24 grams of carbs per cup, due to the maltodextrin.

Also, keep in mind, that as you age, your carbohydrate tolerance will change. It might go up as you become more sensitive to insulin, but it also might go down. You won't know if you aren't strictly counting those carbs.

19. You are Eating Hidden Carbs

Processed foods can be problematic for those on low-carb diets. The practice of rounding down when the carb count is half-a-carb, or less, has caused a lot of confusion and mistakes for many dieters.

If the label says zero carbs, the product only has negligible carbs if you only eat the manufacturer's tiny serving. Eat a normal-sized portion, and you'll be consuming carbs. Those:
  • herbs and spices
  • deli meats
  • eggs
  • cheese
  • heavy whipping cream
  • sugar-free soft-drink powders
  • sugar-free gelatin
  • sugar-free gum
are not carb free. Other problems come from inaccurate labels where carbohydrate is purposely hidden.

Do the math yourself.
  • Protein has 4 calories per gram
  • Carbohydrate has 4 calories per gram
  • Fat has 9 calories per gram
Carbohydrates are determined by taking the total calorie count of a serving and subtracting the calories for protein and fat from the calorie total. What's left over is carbohydrate calories. Divide the carbohydrate calories by 4, and you'll learn the correct carbohydrate count for that product.

Unless doing Atkins 72, pay attention to the carbs in the herbs and spices you're using. If you're shaking some into that pot of soup or casserole, instead of measuring, you won't know how many carbs you're actually eating.

For some herbs and spices, the amount will be negligible but the carbs in onion powder, garlic powder, and minced dried onions will add up quickly.

20. Did You Decide to Not Move Into Phase 2?

Lots of dieters want to carve the pounds off as quickly as possible, so they stay on Atkins Induction. However, not moving into Phase 2 after a couple of months is a huge mistake.

The 20-net carbs that characterizes Atkins Induction borders on starvation for those who are not severely insulin resistant. Since only 1 in 3 Atkins Dieters have insulin resistance, you need to move to a thyroid-friendly carbohydrate intake within a few weeks.

Ham and Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts are a nice higher carb vegetable.
Move to a higher carb level if NOT "severely"
insulin resistant.

The longer your insulin levels stay tanked, the more likely your body will slow down metabolism to compensate, due to the stress it causes. Higher blood glucose levels can be problematic if you don't add carbs back in as Atkins instructs.

Once the brain fully adapts to using ketones and body fat, it still needs about 35 to 45 carbs per day to function optimally.

Higher carbs only slow down weight loss if you don't lower your dietary fat to compensate for the extra calories.

21. Adding Carbohydrates Back Too Quickly

For every dieter who stays on Induction too long, another dieter crashes and burns when trying to add carbs back to their diet. If you're ignoring the Atkins Carbohydrate Ladder and adding back:
  • nut-flour goodies
  • Carbquick baking mix
  • low-carb tortillas
  • high-fiber flatbread
  • low-carb pastas
  • and fruit
without watching how your body reacts to each food, your weight loss can stop cold. This is especially true if you are not counting the actual carbohydrates you eat each day or if you happen to be ultra-sensitive to wheat or gluten.

In 1972, Atkins allowed you to add back one 5 to 8 carb serving of food at a time, so you could see how your body reacted. Today, the method has moved to adding back entire food groups, but it's still a good idea to pick one or two foods at a time and see how you do.

22. Starting Where You Left Off Before

If you're trying to do the Atkins Diet from memory, you might have confused Atkins Induction with Phase 2, and how carbs are supposed to be returned to the diet.

This mistake is common among those who are returning to the Atkins Diet for a second, third, or fourth time.

You start out Atkins Induction excited and hopeful. You know how well it worked before, but suddenly, everything sours. You're sure that you're eating what you ate when you stopped dieting, and therein lies the problem.

Atkins Induction is constructed with a limited amount of foods to help you get into ketosis quickly. If you're eating low-carb products like tortillas, berries, and yogurt because that's what you remember eating before, you are not doing Atkins Induction.

While you can still get into ketosis eating 30 to 40 net carbs a day, it's going to be slower than for those who are only eating 20. You won't see those dramatic glycogen and water losses that people weighing 250 pounds tend to see.

Atkins will act like a standard low-calorie diet does but come with extra benefits that a low-calorie diet doesn't have.

In addition, the body's opposition against going into ketosis will likely be stronger if you're mindlessly eating at a higher carb level than recommended for your weight. And while you don't actually have to be in ketosis to reap the non-hunger benefits of reduced triglycerides, to lose weight on low carb, you do have to eat at a calorie deficit.

23. You Believe What Worked Before Should Work Now

This is one of the major stumbling blocks that affect those coming back to a low-carb lifestyle. You feel you should be able to:
  • eat just as many calories as before
  • enjoy the same foods
  • lose just as much weight
Unfortunately, now is not then. Things don't stay the same. Life isn't static. What was true when you did low carb before is no longer true today. Your mind is different, your body is different, and your food habits are different.

Protein, fat, and calorie needs will have changed.

While opportunities will sometimes circle back around, they are never offered in exactly the same way as before. Nor are they as easy to accomplish the second or third time offered.

In general, what you have rejected before turns out harder to accomplish when you try again.

You have to be even more determined and committed than you were before to pull it off.

Many find they can no longer eat some of the luxury foods they could before. This is especially true if you are re-starting Atkins at a lower weight than you weighed when you started Atkins before.

Getting upset about it won't change the way things are.

It is what it is.

There is a price you pay for what you want. Taking charge of your state of being requires you to value your choices and be willing to accept the results. If you don't like the current price, then choose another plan.

24. You Aren't Actually Doing What You Did Before

This is a realization that I came to recently while going back over how I did Atkins 72 in 1975. In the very first edition of the Atkins Diet, Dr. Atkins was more strict about what you could return to your diet by way of carbs. For each level, he told you exactly what to add.

With only 2 cups of salad and 1/2 cup of vegetables later on, there wasn't anything to put extra fat ON.

Most of the fat you ate came in your protein foods and a token amount of heavy cream for your coffee or tea. There was no such thing as shakes and bars, specialty products, or even a decent tasting sugar substitute.

When the weight fell off of me, I was eating diet gelatin for dessert and drinking an occasional nasty-tasting diet soda.

Fatty meat was non-existent as well. The highest fat grade you could buy at the supermarket was Choice, available for a premium price. Most cuts were Standard grade and very low in saturated fat. When Atkins talked about eating a one-pound steak at a single sitting, he was referring to London Broil, Filet Mignon, and Top Sirloin.

All relatively lean by today's standards.

Even in 1999, when I was doing Atkins before the vertigo struck, chicken breast was the number one meat used in low-carb recipes. I couldn't find a single recipe made with legs and thighs. They didn't exist.

Sugar substitutes still sucked. Splenda wasn't on the market yet, so few of us ate desserts other than sugar-free gelatin.

My past experience: Atkins was basically a whole-foods moderate-fat diet.

When I returned to Atkins in 2007, I was totally blown away by the changes. Recommendations by the low-carb community to eat higher and higher amounts of fat and calories if you were not losing weight on Atkins were quite shocking.

Menus included all sorts of things no one did in 1999, let alone in 1975.

If you are not eating exactly what you ate before, you can't expect to get the same results.

It wasn't until I went back to my 1975 roots and implemented those original Atkins principles, that the weight finally started to come off for me. You might have to do something similar to get the scales to move.

25. Eating Too Many Low-Carb Products

Atkins bars and shakes can trip you up, but so can other low-carb specialty products.

The bars are made with sugar alcohol, which is why they are often referred to as an Atkins candy bar. Despite what the package says about effective carbs, all of those carbs are processed in the body the same way sugar is. They are just processed more slowly.

This might be good for stable blood sugar, but all of those calories count.

Scientifically, there is no association between unstable blood sugar and hunger unless you have diabetes.

On older versions of Atkins, specialty products were only allowed in a pinch or at maintenance, but the newer versions are low-glycemic plans. They are not necessarily low in carbs.

Since the focus has moved from low-carb to low-glycemic, you are now told not to count sugar alcohols because they don't raise your blood sugar.

Some types of sugar alcohols do not affect blood sugar, but the best tasting ones like maltitol are more glycemic than white bread. If your sugar substitute includes maltodextrin, that maltodextrin is the highest glycemic ingredient there is, so there is a lot of inconsistency within the Atkins movement today.

The Atkins shakes are made with traditional low-carb sweeteners, so they won't stall you, but they do count as two servings of your three servings of sugar substitutes per day, on Atkins. This means, you can only have one more packet of sweetener for the entire day.

If you put sweetener in your coffee, and you use more than one packet, you might be exceeding your daily carbohydrate limit for sugar alternatives. Sugar substitutes have to be detoxed by the liver and kidney, pulling them away from fat mobilization, so anything you can do to free up the liver can result in faster weight loss.

Few people can eat the Atkins products and still lose weight. Those who seem to do okay with them are young or have a lot of weight to lose. If you're eating them and not losing weight on Atkins, cut them out for a couple of weeks and see if those pounds start dropping again.

26. You Have Unknown Food Sensitivities and Allergies

Many people blame the carbs when they get sick after cheating, but unknown food sensitivities or allergies are more likely the culprit. When you remove foods from your diet that you are sensitive to, and try to eat them a few weeks later, your body will overreact.

The most common allergens that affect low-carb diets are:
  • wheat
  • corn
  • sugar
  • soy
  • dairy
But you could also be gluten intolerant or even have celiac disease without knowing it. If so, eating low-carb products made with wheat protein, barley extract, or other gluten ingredients can bring your weight loss to a halt.

Not only does food sensitivity cause intestinal inflammation, but that inflammation raises cortisol and makes it difficult for the body to absorb the nutrients you need. Starvation mode is common in folks with food sensitivities and allergies due to the malnutrition and inflammation.

Elimination diets are the best way to go when it comes to food intolerance. Simply cut out the offending substance and you'll know within a few days if you're on the right track. Physical damage will need time to heal, but all of those nasty symptoms that come from histamine release will be a thing of the past.

27. You're Eating Too Much Fat

This is a sore spot within the low-carb community, but it wasn't always like that.

Well-marbled beef slices with au jus sauce
Old-School Atkins didn't use a lot of
added fat. You ate the amount of fat
found naturally in meat.

In 1972, Atkins was not a high-fat diet like it is today. Back then, Atkins advised readers to eat protein and fat in the same combination that you find it in nature, 40% protein to 60% fat, what you would find in a reasonably lean piece of beef back then.

While he did say he liked to plop a pat of butter on top of his 16 ounce London Broil, a pat of butter is 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons. It isn't the 2 to 4 tablespoons of butter you often see influential low carbers using to fry an egg or two today.

Not fearing fat was about coming out of the non-fat mindset that the dietary guidelines for Americans were pushing. Plus, let's get real. Dr. Atkins believed in the insulin hypothesis.

To lose the weight, you have to eat less fat than your body needs on a daily basis. Dr. Michael Eades has been saying this for a long time.

Even the creator of the Nutritional Ketosis program, Dr. Stephen Phinney, has clearly stated that body fat must make up part of your 70-percent fat percentage for the diet to work properly.

You can't eat all of the fat you want and expect to lose weight. That isn't going to happen.

28. You're Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Dr. Atkins enjoyed a little wine with dinner, so he found a way to work it into the program.

However, alcohol is toxic, so once it's been consumed, everything in the bloodstream (including dietary fats) is immediately stored until the alcohol is completely oxidized.

Drinking alcohol won't throw you out of ketosis, but it will put fat burning on hold, shutting down fat mobilization until the threat has been dealt with.

Wine contains 8 grams of carbohydrate per 4-ounce glass and 12 ounces of beer will cost you 2-1/2 grams to 6-1/2 grams depending on the brand. Distilled spirits are basically carb free, except for what you mix it with, so if you want to go back to drinking, you'll need to keep a close eye on your carbohydrate intake.

In 2002, Dr. Atkins introduced the Carbohydrate Ladder, which pushed low-carb alcoholic drinks back to level 5 of the diet.

While I realize that few low carbers follow the exact order of the ladder, due to the way alcohol is processed in the body, drinking regularly has the potential to disrupt weight loss.

That is the important point here.

Frequent drinkers will need to watch their fat calories more closely, and make sure that you're eating at a large enough deficit to handle the pause in weight loss every time you drink.

29. You're On One or More Conflicting Medications

Many prescription drugs inhibit fat loss. Some have weight gain as a potential side effect. It can be an uphill battle if you are taking one or more of these medications.

Some of the popular types of medications that have been known to cause weight-loss stalls include:
  • diuretics or beta-blockers
  • steroids and cortisone treatments
  • anti-arthritis medications
  • insulin and insulin-stimulating drugs
  • anti-depressants
  • birth-control pills
  • estrogen and synthetic hormone replacement therapy
If you're on a conflicting medication, you might ask your doctor about getting the dose reduced, if appropriate. Weight loss will be excruciatingly slow if you can't.

In that case, pick a diet plan that you can comfortably live with for the long-haul and accept whatever degree of fat loss your body is willing to give you for your efforts.

30. You Have Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance doesn't ordinarily interfere with weight loss because the body is able to make enough insulin to eventually get that glucose into your body's cells. At that point, insulin level comes down. While a few people do have chronic elevated insulin levels, this problem in non-diabetics is relatively rare.

Only 1 in 3 overweight or obese individuals suffer with some degree of insulin resistance, so comparatively, severe resistance is not as common as the low-carb community claims. If it were, you wouldn't be reading this article right now because people with severe insulin resistance lose weight easily.

You wouldn't know that by listening to people within the low-carb community talk about themselves because folks would rather believe they have insulin resistance than believe they eat too much.

It's easier to chase after low-carb trends like:
  • switching from dinner plates to salad plates
  • eating 80-percent of your calories in fat
  • tossing away the snacks
  • limiting your meals to one or two a day
  • water fasting for one day a week
to trick the body into eating fewer calories, so you don't have to count them, than it is to admit that calories matter.

Biologically, insulin resistance occurs when your body doesn't respond to the secretion of insulin appropriately. In other words, your body's cells do not see the insulin or the insulin is unable to attach itself to the cell's insulin receptors.

Some people do over-secrete insulin in higher amounts than the average person. This response to food is automatic, regardless of what you eat. It's hereditary, which is why diabetes tends to run in families.

However, the consequences of excess insulin have not been demonstrated to be associated with weight-loss problems.

This is because if your fat cells are insulin resistant, the doors to your fat cells are always open – due to the fact that higher levels of insulin are not perceived by the body. Instead, the higher insulin is responded to as if your insulin level was very low to non-existant.

Obese individuals can lose a lot of weight on Atkins quite quickly because most of them ARE insulin resistant.

Those who fall into the overweight category will lose more slowly because they are not as insulin resistant.

In addition, you can create a fake insulin resistance by excessively worrying about every little thing, playing the what if game, and feeling victimized (everyone and everything is out to get you or harm you in some way), which creates weight-loss problems due to excessive cortisol.

Attitude problems can be corrected by changing the way that you think. Insulin resistance cannot.

If you're able to get into the state of ketosis, weight loss may or may not be fast or slow. It all depends on:
  • how forcefully the body decides to defend its fat stores
  • how much body fat you have
  • whether the body has an adaptive plan already in play
  • how quickly the body can reach equilibrium
  • what you eat and how much you eat
Equilibrium is the name of the game because the body doesn't like it when energy coming in doesn't coincide with energy used. From day one of carbohydrate restriction, the body busies itself with making changes to your internal workings that will eventually bring energy into balance.

Dr. Atkins only spoke about those who couldn't get into ketosis as being resistant to weight loss because this was his fundamental purpose for taking his diet public. He believed that if you were able to get into ketosis, then weight loss would automatically follow.

How quickly didn't matter to him.

However, he did tweak his patients' diets to make things happen, so you have to be willing to do the same thing for yourself. If you can get into ketosis, there are ways to tweak a low-carb diet to get the scales moving, but most people don't have the patience for self-experimentation.

You can't just make one change to the standard Atkins diet and expect results within a week or two. You have to play around with your macros until you find the perfect combination for you.

This might mean:
  • raising or lowering your calories
  • raising or lowering your protein intake
  • raising or lowering your carbohydrates
  • raising or lowering your dietary fats
  • increasing or decreasing dairy products
  • getting more exercise or slowing it down
  • ditching all low-carb products
  • avoiding sugar substitutes
And hundreds of other personal experiments with individual foods, condiments, chemicals, pesticides, and so on. Anything that produces stress or internal inflammation can cause your weight loss to be sluggish or even stop.

31. You're In Starvation Mode

I kept this one for last because there is so much confusion about starvation mode and what causes it.

You do not go into starvation mode when you:
  • don't eat a good breakfast
  • don't snack in between meals
  • decide to skip lunch because you're too busy
  • reduce your calories below 1200 a day
  • eat a low-fat, low-carb diet
You DO go into starvation mode when the body doesn't get enough nutrients and calories to sustain body systems and organs, neurological function, and repair daily wear-and-tear. This is thought to occur at less than 50 percent of the calories it takes to maintain your ideal weight.

But what you spend your daily calories on also matters.

Many Americans are in starvation mode even though they overeat on a daily basis. Starvation doesn't have anything to do with the volume of food you eat. You can eat 3 meals a day, a couple of snacks, and still be starving for nutrients.

A low-carb diet is called a nutrient-dense diet for good reason. It focuses on:
  • protein foods
  • dairy products
  • salads and vegetables
  • nuts
  • healthy fats
  • low-glycemic fruits like berries
The number one nutrient that will put you into starvation mode faster than any of the others is a lack of PROTEIN.

While it's true that you can overeat protein, it's very rare.

The whole movement within the low-carb community to blame excess protein for their inability to lose weight was a way to divert attention from the real problem: excess calories.

If you are in starvation mode, due to a nutrient-depleted diet, autoimmune condition, or lack of adequate protein, your body isn't going to give up its fat stores easily. You have to heal the body first by giving it everything it needs to repair current damage before it will let go of what it believes is essential to save your life.

This does not mean you have to gain weight to heal the body. That's insane. You already have plenty of body fat or you wouldn't be reading this blog. It's not an excessive amount of calories that will heal the body.

It's getting the proper amount of nutrients, and you can easily do that if you follow the Atkins Diet as written.

Keto Diets Offer No Guarantees

All weight-loss diets are tools that can assist you in making a course correction. What you were eating and doing before you started Keto wasn't working, so diets like Atkins show you a different way to eat and live your life.

However, weight-loss programs, no matter how nutrient-dense they are, cannot do the work for you.

Keto diets come with no guarantees that the dietary corrections they recommend will enable you to achieve the body image you are holding in your mind. They simply show you what worked for the diet's author and what worked for their patients or clients, if the author is a doctor or other professional.

Diet books are written for a general audience. The diet programs presented will work for most people most of the time, if followed correctly. However, they won't work for everyone.

If you're lucky, you'll be able to tweak the principles you learned at the beginning of your weight-loss journey, so you can continue moving forward. If you are not so lucky, you won't be.

Getting what you want takes sacrifice.

You will have to make hard, difficult choices along the way. Values will change along with your:
  • body
  • mind
  • emotions
  • and spirit
Gaining control of what you put in your mouth and being willing to face the truth – that calories matter more than the low-carb community thinks – is the only way to arrive at your destination.

If you are not losing weight on Atkins, you need to look at what you're doing, re-evaluate its effectiveness, and then FREELY choose to do something different.

How you implement Atkins is up to you. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

While people can offer you ideas, potential solutions, and principles, they cannot do the work for you. Getting to know yourself and responding accordingly isn't easy, but it's essential if you want to move to a happier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Vickie Ewell Bio


  1. Excellent article Vickie, very helpful and informative, thank you. I enjoy all of your articles. Regards, Karen

    1. You're welcome Karen. I'm glad to hear that you find the article useful.

  2. I have found you at the very moment that I've been debating this keto low-carb community. How fortuitous! I'm going back to old school Atkins and stop listening to keto people telling me that ingesting too much protein will turn to sugar. Thanks for writing this article!

    1. You're welcome! In my opinion, old school Atkins is definitely the way to go. And I'd follow it as written. Find your CCLL. It's important to do that.

      The whole "protein will turn into sugar" movement came from a single blogger's personal experiment on himself. There are a handful of people who are protein sensitive, but their true numbers are rare.

      My biggest regret is that I listened to the low-carb community in 2008 when they told me I was doing low-carb wrong. Even Dr. Phinney has been trying to tell these people that they need to be eating "at least" 15 to 20 percent of their calories in protein, and calls blood ketone levels above 3.0 "ketone starvation," but most of them are not listening to him, even though he's the father of lchf.

    2. I done Atkins 17 years ago went from 252 to 190 pounds ...5'7"....a few years ago I gained back 20 pounds went on weight watchers lost 5 pounds but was hungry all the time...went back on Atkins...eat one egg and 1/2 piece bacon every breakfast....lunch 4 punches chicken thigh or breast 1/2 avacado 1/2 cup red pepper....or can of tuna with celery and mayo not miracle whip....supper is 7 ounces of meat and stir fried green vegs or the meat and salad with my own dressing of garlic olive oil and vineagar with some Splenda...five weeks of this and I have not lost one pound....my thyroid counts are good had them tested because I am on thyroxin...I do have maybe too much whipping cream I measure 3 tbsp but usually have 4 tbsp....I do record what I eat on my fitness pal....I am always between 1200 and 1300 calories...my protien count is about 90 to 100... my fat count is about 90 to 100....I do not kn ow what to do......I need help....I also have one cup of lime water zero carbs but is has sucrose in it....don,t know if that is bad...never had this last time on Atkins...

    3. What I've noticed this time around is that I do lean towards those peppers, onions and tomato concoctions. They all have more carbs than greens - even celery has carbs. The original diet stressed salad greens for lunch and dinner e.g., a salad with some chicken pieces; a steak and a salad; etc.

    4. In some people, vegetables really do interfere with getting into ketosis and staying there. For most people, it's a matter of calories or hidden food sensitivities they don't know about.


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